Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has come closer than ever to confirming that the city will host the 2028 Olympic Games, with Paris hosting the 2024 edition.
Speaking at a BuzzFeed event on Wednesday, Garcetti said an LA 2024 Games is "not probably most likely to happen" but that International Olympic Committee (IOC) negotiators had made hosting the later Games "financially so attractive, we'd be stupid not to take 2028".
The Paris and Los Angeles bid teams entered tri-partite talks to confirm a joint award of the 2024 and 2028 Games, following a unanimous vote by IOC members in Lausanne earlier on 11th July. Any successful deal, which would be confirmed by another vote at the IOC Session in Lima, Peru in September, would make both of them three-time Summer Olympic hosts.
The French capital and the Californian city are the only remaining entrants in a race which saw Budapest, Hamburg and Rome withdraw in the face of a collapse in political or public support. LA was itself a late replacement for Boston as the United States Olympics Committee's (USOC) preferred candidate, after the latter also pulled out.
What might have tipped it Paris' way?
Both Paris and LA have previously stated their insistence that they are only considering 2024. Paris, however, has long been considered a slight favourite to take the earlier slot, which falls on the centenary of its most recent Games in 1924.
Paris bid officials have stressed that plans for its Olympic Park would need revisiting were it to host the 2028 Games due to the expiry of key leases. The IOC would also have to consider the status of its two major TV deals in the award of the two Games. Discovery-owned Eurosport holds the live rights across Europe to Olympics held between 2018 and 2024 as part of a €1.3 billion deal it signed in June 2015. The next three Games, however, will all take place in Asian cities, and a fourth consecutive event in a Pacific time zone would make a renewal a harder sell for the IOC.
In June Eurosport, whose headquarters are in Paris, became an official supporter of that city's bid.
"When Discovery Communications secured the rights across Europe for the Olympic Games from 2018-2024, we did so with tremendous passion, commitment and ambition, irrespective of the location of the Games.
"A truly global company run by local market experts and teams, Discovery has significant operations in Paris and Los Angeles and we consider both to be world class cities. That said, as Home of the Olympic Games in Europe through 2024, we are excited to show our support for the Paris bid and their quest to bring the 2024 Olympic Games back to Europe."
US broadcaster NBC, which is the single biggest financial backer of the IOC, has a rights deal in place until 2032.
The Paris bid has also often been characterised as having greater political appeal – both within sports administrative circles and on a macro level. Incoming French president Emmanuel Macron has invigorated his country's bid while his US counterpart Donald Trump, who would be out of office by 2028, is becoming more unpopular at home and abroad by the day.
Speaking to SportsPro last week, meanwhile, outgoing International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Sir Philip Craven noted the logisitical advantages of a venue within easy reach of the many Swiss-based international federations.
"It's also something that when you've got an organisation based in Europe," he said, "especially to the Paris location, we're not having to travel 11 or 12 hours to the a location – for once, when you think the next three Games are in Asia. And that makes a difference."
LA has made much of the fact that the overwhelming majority of its infrastructure for hosting the Games is already in place. Nevertheless, the city that concedes the race is likely to desire some form of indemnity against the greater financial uncertainty of planning for an event 11 years into the future. Other expenses, such as the redrawing of contracts, consultancy fees, and even the revaluation of branding and marketing concepts, may also have to be considered.
Where would this leave the LA Olympic project?
Though LA may not be getting its preferred 2024 slot, Garcetti is still framing an imminent deal as a cause for celebration. "We have won," he said.
The LA 2024 bid campaign has been founded on a forward-facing, technology-inspired message that it is hoped would refresh the Olympic movement. To an extent, this has been drawn from the memory of the LA 1984 Games, which has been credited with revitalising the event after the difficulties of the 1970s and early 1980s.
It has been more strongly inspired, however, by California's reputation as a global centre of technological innovation. Garcetti, who was speaking to BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, recounted recent discussions with Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who is interested in building a tunnel network for LA that could ease congestion by carrying cars, bikes and pedestrians.
The mayor believes that Musk may be "on to something" if the technology for boring machines can be moved forward. He also suggested that he wanted LA to become "a test bed" for new technology-led infrastructure projects, in the style of Dubai, "not just for Elon, but for everybody who has an idea, or a company, or some crazy product that they want to test".
Garcetti also suggested that he does not think "most Angelenos would welcome" the return of OJ Simpson, the former National Football League (NFL) star and actor, recently paroled after a 2008 conviction for armed robbery, whose 1994 trial and controversial acquittal for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman so divided the populations of LA and the US. Garcetti – whose father, Gil, oversaw the prosecution as the Los Angeles County district attorney – expects the now 70-year-old Simpson to "probably go to Florida or something".
But the younger Garcetti also used the opportunity to discuss the history of LA's diverse population – which he said was viewed as a boon in the 1980s, a burden in the 1990s, and is now the envy of cities across the world. That diversity has also been used as an asset in its 2024 bid to date.
Tellingly in the context of organising an Olympics, Garcetti also spoke of LA's journey from being a city of libertarian spirit to one which embraces public projects, having learned that "we all need each other". Such an approach to civic life would be likely to put the Games at the heart of local discourse for the next decade.